HATTIESBURG, Miss. (AP) — Stacey Pflaum knew her father's name was John Richard Hubbard. She knew he was a sergeant major in the Army, but until recently never knew what her father looked like.
Her father, from Windsor Locks, Connecticut, died in Vietnam before she was born.
"My mother was pregnant with me while he was over there," Pflaum said. "I never had a chance to meet him. There wasn't any pictures or anything like that."
Pflaum, who lives in Sumrall, had mentioned to a friend that she was looking forward to visiting the Wall That Heals — a scaled version of the Vietnam veterans memorial in Washington, D.C. — when it was in Columbia just after Veterans Day.
The wall is a memorial honoring the more than 58,000 members of the military killed during the Vietnam War.
She told the friend she wished the wall had pictures so she could see what her father looked like.
The friend decided to look up her father on the Vietnam Veterans Memorial Fund website, which hosts the Wall That Heals, and was able to find Hubbard's photo.
"That's what I've been looking for all these years," Pflaum said.
‘No one to turn to for answers’
Her mother died when she was 6, so she never had the opportunity to ask about her father. She's not sure if her mother ever had any photos of her father, so seeing his face for the first time was a welcome surprise.
Pflaum was raised by her grandparents, neither of whom knew Hubbard, so Pflaum was in the dark until she started looking for information about him when she about 27 or 28 years old.
"I started contacting the Army's department of records," she said. "They sent me a whole envelope of his medical records, information on him, things like that, but there was no picture of him.
"I just wanted to know what this man looks like."
‘Father was a decorated war hero’
Hubbard had joined the Army in 1947, when he was 19, and served more than 20 years before he died of a heart attack on March 26, 1967, at the age of 39, according to his obituary, published March 29, 1967, in the Hartford (Connecticut) Courant.
Pflaum's father had received many awards and honors while in the Army, including the Army of Occupation Medal, given to soldiers who performed occupation service after World War II in Germany, Italy, Austria or Japan. Hubbard's service was listed in Germany.
He received numerous medals for his service in the Korean and Vietnam wars, including a Bronze Star Medal, given either for meritorious service or combat actions.
It is possible Hubbard also received a Silver Star Medal — the third-highest combat-only award in the country — for his service in the Korean War.
‘Both parents served in the military’
Pflaum said her parents met in Washington state. Her mother was in the Navy, following in the footsteps of her father — Pflaum's grandfather and the man who eventually raised her along with her grandmother.
Pflaum's grandfather worked civilian jobs at government facilities, she said, so the family lived in several states, from California to Washington to Arizona to New Mexico.
She said she lived in Branson, Missouri, where Pflaum met the man who would become her husband.
It wasn't until years later that the Pflaums discovered both their grandfathers served on Johnson Island at the same time, she said, even though they didn't know each other.
"That was another coincidence," Pflaum said.
The Pflaums eventually settled in Sumrall, where Pflaum works at Plum Trophy Sales, owned by her now ex-husband.
'Daughter finds father's name on wall, photo from a friend'
Pflaum knew her father died in Vietnam, but knew little else about him until recently. Her quest as a young woman to learn more about her father produced little fruit — until now.
"There wasn't really any way to find out about him," she said.
Twenty-five years later, the floodgates have opened.
Pflaum and her son, Luke Pflaum, ex-husband Tony Pflaum and father-in-law Richard Plfaum were able to find Hubbard's name on the Wall That Heals, took pictures and etched his name on paper.
A veteran volunteer who helped with the wall gave Luke Pflaum his cap after learning of Stacey Pflaum's story.
Soon after visiting the wall was when her friend sent her a surprise text message — one that included a photo of her father. It was a shock to see her father's face for the very first time, she said.
"There had been no one that could find his picture or anything like that," Pflaum said.
Hubbard's photo was on the website in the Wall of Faces — photos to go with many of the names engraved on the wall. It is a black-and-white image that is somewhat grainy from being enlarged.
Some of Pflaum's friends say they can see where father and daughter have some facial features that are similar, while she is not so quick to point out the similarities herself.
“The picture I saw of him, he was a handsome fellow,” she said. “But I’m biased, of course.
‘Family connections are slim, but father remembered with love’
Several notes are written on his memorial page, honoring the man who sacrificed his life for his country. Among them were notes from two family members:
His nephew Jack Berg's wife, Gigi Berg, wrote:
“Heard many loving memories of him from my husband, Jack Berg, (his nephew), and my mother-in-law Lorraine Berg, (his sister). I honor his memory and all that he did for his country and his loved ones. A true American Hero.”
And niece, Kathleen Berg wrote:
“John Hubbard was my beloved godfather, my Mom's brother, Grandparent's son and my Aunt Elfriede's loving husband. He served his country in Korea and Vietnam with courage, and we remember him daily with love. We pray he is resting in peace with the family members who went before him. May God bless him always.”
While the Hattiesburg American was able to discover Hubbard has other relatives, attempts to reach them were unsuccessful.
'Now that she's seen his face, what's next?'
Pflaum said she is researching her father's family history through the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, which offers free access and assistance every Tuesday at 7:30 p.m. at the church's Mississippi Family History Center, 2502 Old Highway 24 in Oak Grove.
"We found his mother and father's names, which would have been my grandparents, and different relatives through all that," she said. “Unfortunately they have all passed away so I can't contact them to find out what he was like.”
She said she hopes to find some of her father's relatives to see if she can learn more about the man she never knew.
"We didn't find any other children," she said. “So apparently I am the one and only.”
Even though Pflaum continues to look for leads on her father's living family members, she doesn't know what she'll do once she finds one.
"You know it's kind of an odd thing, when you think about it," she said. “If I actually find family members, how do I word that? 'Hi, my name is Stacey and I'm his long-lost daughter?'”
Pflaum believes her father's photo on the Wall of Faces website was submitted by a relative since he was in a suit, not a military uniform.
She's trying to track down where the photo came from.
"I contacted the Vietnam Veterans Memorial and they're trying to find out who was the person that submitted that," Pflaum said.
Pflaum also wants to someday visit her father's grave at Arlington National Cemetery.
"It's on my bucket list," she said.
This article was written by Lici Beveridge and Hattiesburg American from The Associated Press and was legally licensed through the NewsCred publisher network. Please direct all licensing questions to firstname.lastname@example.org.